Review: Animal Man #13 – Rotworld: The Red Kingdom – Part One
At the outset of this review, I just want to say that I am not a regular reader of
Animal Man, and that I’m only picking up this week’s issue to continue the Rotworld
storyline from Scott Snyder’s Swamp Thing, a book I am a very big fan of. I also bought
Animal Man #12, the Rotworld Prologue, and there’s a very big difference that’s
immediately noticeable here: a set of different artists are brought on board to illustrate
the more super-hero-y action of Rotworld in a style that fits more precisely with that of
Yanique Paquette, regular artist on Swamp Thing. Timothy Green II’s pencils and Joseph
Silver’s inks do a rockin’ job, and Steve Pugh continues to turn out his trademark Animal
Man interior art, while also tackling cover duties in yet another style that follows
Paquette’s lead, as though to assure you that he’s got all his bases covered. Impressive
performances all around!
Just like Alec Holland in Swamp Thing’s “Green Kingdom,” Buddy Baker is
quickly met in Rotworld by a rag-tag team of resistance-fighting superhero-survivors:
those with connections to the Green or Red who proved immune to the Rot’s infestation,
or those like John Henry Irons, who uploaded his personality into the data-matrix of a
war robot, depriving the Rot of any organic components to infest or decay. While leading
Buddy to the Red’s last stronghold, Irons, Beast Boy, and Black Orchid explain the
situation to him, complete with a full two-page spread devoted to a voiced-over montage
detailing the rise of Rotworld. I’m devoting perhaps not as much time to this section as I
could, because I feel I already covered it ad nauseum in my Swamp Thing #13 review
(found elsewhere on ogeeku.com), but suffice it to say that this is filled with images of
classic DC heroes getting zombified and otherwise messed-up by the Rot.
Finally, Animal Man and his new allies arrive at the last bastion of the Red, a Red
city. This is actually one of the cooler ideas I’ve come across in comics lately: the Red
has enshrined itself, so to speak, not in, but as a city, defended by the power of its own
Red essence from the forces of the Rot. The city is alive, but non-sentient – a last-ditch
effort to protect the last survivors of Rotworld.
Among those survivors are Shepherd, a giant naked dude who wears only his own
beard, and John Constantine, who always seems to be around when mystical happenings
are afoot. Shepherd breaks the sad news to Buddy about the death of his wife and child,
and, shattered, Baker lashes out at Constantine, demanding to be told that the entire
nightmare is one big joke, but being met with nothing but Constantine’s resigned
seriousness. In this moment of rage, Animal Man screams that his own daughter was too
powerful to be defeated. It’s just kind of a cool moment, a great line that encompasses
what could be an entire comic book series on its own – Little Baby Animal Girl V.S. The
Rotworld – establishing the implied idea just as quickly as it gets tossed away, moving us
on to bigger and better things (like grown men with powers, not tiny, little girls – that
series might’ve been a bit more annoying than originally thought).
So Maxine seems like she might be cool in some alternate, post-Rotworld future-
continuity, but I must say that, by the end of the book, I found myself hating and dreading our flash-outs to scenes of Buddy’s family. Unlike Swamp Thing, where Abigal
Arcane serves a similar “people-we’re-fighting-for” role over in “Green Kingdom,” I find
myself not really caring about what happens to the Bakers. I know they’re important to
Buddy, but, unlike Abby in Swamp Thing, they don’t really seem to relate to the overall
plot and story of Rotworld. I’m ready to be pleasantly surprised by what comes of this
book, and I’m ready to admit that long-time readers of Animal Man may find more to
care about in their scenes and characters, but for me, it just wasn’t clicking.
So, the storylines in the “Red Kingdom” and “Green Kingdom” of Rotworld seem
to be running almost exactly parallel: after arriving in Rotworld, Animal Man and
Swamp Thing are both confronted with new allies, brought to a new “home base,” and
sent out to defend that new home base after having had it explained to them that
everything else has been taken over by the Rot. Unbeknownst to Alec, but quickly
revealed to Buddy – the only structural difference between these similar tales – are the
facts of the deaths of their loved ones.
Rotworld – off to a strong start. Will it continue to prove worthwhile and worth
money to buy both Swamp Thing and Animal Man each month? Only time will tell, but
when it does, I’ll tell you, so stick around!